Net Neutrality

FCC Wins Key Net Neutrality Ruling

The US Appeals Court for the DC Circuit declared today that the FCC has the authority to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, thus giving the Commission the right to enact the Open Internet Order passed in February 2015.

The long-awaited ruling follows an earlier court decision in which the DC Circuit decided that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could not initially impose anti-blocking and anti-discrimination traffic management provisions against Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). At that time, the court said that the FCC would be able to enact open Internet rules if the classification of broadband were changed from that of an information service to that of a telecommunications service. The FCC subsequently reclassified broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, making them eligible for net neutrality regulation. (See Net Neutrality Heads to Court.)

Today's opinion for the court was filed by Judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan, with Judge Stephen Williams concurring in part and dissenting in part. The decision is likely headed next to the Supreme Court, which is currently down to eight members -- four judges who are traditionally liberal and could be expected to vote with the DC Circuit, and four judges who are traditionally conservative and could be expected to vote against the DC Circuit. In the event of a deadlock at the Supreme Court, the DC Circuit Court decision would stand.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated gigabit/broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

Reactions to the ruling are already pouring in.

From the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) :

"We are reviewing today's split decision by the DC circuit panel, and will carefully review the majority and dissenting opinions before determining next steps. Though disappointed in today's result, we are particularly gratified by Judge Williams' recognition of the ‘watery thin and self-contradictory' nature of the FCC arguments used to justify the imposition of common carriage laws on Internet networks. While this is unlikely the last step in this decade-long debate over Internet regulation, we urge bipartisan leaders in Congress to renew their efforts to craft meaningful legislation that can end ongoing uncertainty, promote network investment, and protect consumers."

From United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) :

"Two judges on the court have unfortunately failed to recognize the significant legal failings of the Federal Communications Commission's decision to regulate the internet as a public utility, leaving in place regulation we believe will replace a consumer-driven internet with a government-run internet, threatening investment and innovation in years to come. Our industry strongly supports open internet principles and the FCC's order is wholly unnecessary to keeping the internet open. We will continue to work toward policies that facilitate America's broadband leadership, are reviewing the court's decision, and will be evaluating all of our legal options."

From Free Press :

"Today's ruling is a great victory for the millions and millions of internet users who have fought for years for Net Neutrality. They have fought to ensure that the FCC has the power to protect everyone's right to connect and communicate online. The court upheld the agency's clear authority to prevent internet service providers from unfairly interfering with our communications. It confirmed that this authority stands on bedrock communications law and recognized the vital role that the open internet plays in our society."

From AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T):

"We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal."

Further reading:

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

brooks7 6/15/2016 | 1:14:57 PM
Re: Sturm und drang No, I am not saying that they did not lobby.

What I am saying is that they wasted their time in doing so.

Those millions of dollars would have been better spent working on their networks.  Of course, the way that the MSOs and Telcos are built make them want to spend money on legistlation.  What has been prevented are muni networks.  But nobody has stopped overbuilders.

If you want my existence proof, let's use Google Fiber.  If it was an awesome business, Google Fiber would just do every home in the US right now.  But they don't.  They wait to get as much concession from a city as they can and then proceed slowly.  I note in comparison to how fast FiOS was built in comparison to Google Fiber.  The thing is that Google spends a lot of its money doing other (and some of them much more profitable) things.

So, let's figure out why this is.  You are going to spend a lot of capital to build a network.  Then you are going to enter the market (in any size metro) as the number 3 player.  While you are building, the incumbent telco and mso can go build an equivalent network and essentially lock you into that number 3 position.  Why is that a good idea?

If you want Universal High Speed Broadband Access, then we need to make it a Universal Service with escalatiing bandwidths and fixed pricing per Gigabyte.  Then the network gets built and pricing gets managed.  All the notions of competition in the Access Network have failed.  Not sure why we keep beating that drum.


KBode 6/15/2016 | 11:43:23 AM
Re: Sturm und drang "The reason there is no competition is not regulation.  It is just a waste of time to spend lots of capital building networks for low margin business."

Are you going to deny that AT&T, Comcast, Verizon don't spent millions working on state legislation ensuring competitive threats remain minimal?

Me thinks you're actively missing a huge part of the conversation there, but I do concede that minimalist intervention is generally best when we're talking about the Internet at large. But that should include not letting AT&T write protectionist state law that does nothing for anybody not named AT&T. 


I think the merit of regulation has to be considered on a case by case basis, and over-arching claims that minimalist regulation is somehow perfect is an over-simplification of the conversation. 
brooks7 6/15/2016 | 10:45:35 AM
Re: Sturm und drang  

Compared to the regulation of say POTS anything that has been put on at any level is a light touch.  Nobody is fined for held orders or outages.  Nobody has their capex spending questioned by a state PUC and being fined for overspending (take a look at PacBell and ISDN).  No Sales Tax on Internet Orders.  Yep, seems pretty lightly regulated to me.

The reason there is no competition is not regulation.  It is just a waste of time to spend lots of capital building networks for low margin business.  Let's call a nationwide FTTP network @ $1,000 a home (that is cheap).  Call the US 100M homes.  So, $100B to build a nationwide FTTP network.  Or you could fund about 10,000 Angry Birds.  What do you think investors are going to do?

And remember all this was done in  about 20 years.  Took closer to 75 to get to the same point in the voice network.  And we did that on 2 competing wireline technologies and wireless.  

Look at all the business that has spawned in that time from Google to Uber.  Think back to the day when you had to look things up in books.  I think you need to get a little historical perspective and say....Yeah this has gone really well.  Are things perfect?  No.  But sheesh compare what has happened here to just about everything else and I think you will have found this to be just about as good as the world gets.  It sucks less.


KBode 6/15/2016 | 10:05:50 AM
Re: Sturm und drang "There is no way to claim the the little to light touch regulatory regime has not allowed for tremendous growth and prosperity in the Internet."

Depends. Are you talking about on the state level, where state legislators effectively let companies like AT&T quite literally write telecommunications law? Or on the Federal level, where most previous incarnations of the FCC turned a blind eye to the competitive problems in the sector, yelling "how high!?" when asked to jump by the likes of AT&T and Comcast.

Light regulatory touches in some ways have aided the Internet. But regulatory capture and revolving door regulators have actively worked to help prevent real competition, so that's a murkier conversation -- and one that's not really quite that simple. 
KBode 6/15/2016 | 10:04:01 AM
Re: the end of the begining "But in the long run I guess that the service providers are more likely to change their ways with enough customer demand and backlash."

Not without honest pressure from organic competition they won't.
NetworkT64122 6/14/2016 | 5:19:45 PM
the end of the begining So torn between an overreaching government and the stupid crap that service providers want to be able to do. But in the long run I guess that the service providers are more likely to change their ways with enough customer demand and backlash. The FCC/Government is just more bureaucracy and control so FUCK the FCC. I don't usually use swear words but I figure I better use one while I still can, while the internet is still "free". Global internet ID here we come!
brooks7 6/14/2016 | 4:40:14 PM
Re: Sturm und drang Broadband was always a communications service.

The question was the regulated or unregulated style of the service.  An Information Service (like say a Carrier Ethernet Service) is essentially unregulated at that level.  A Telecommuniations Services (like say Plain Old Telephone Service) is heavily regulated.  The challenge for the FCC was how to strike a balance.

There is no way to claim the the little to light touch regulatory regime has not allowed for tremendous growth and prosperity in the Internet.  Think just 20 years ago we got the rumblings of an RFP for DSL.  You many not like how many carriers there are or how fast the speeds are, but things have come a long way in a pretty short period of time.

We even get to complain about the Internet here...on the Internet.


inkstainedwretch 6/14/2016 | 4:06:04 PM
Sturm und drang The original classification of broadband as something other than a communications service was a purely political maneuver in the first place, based almost entirely on anti-regulatory sentiment, with little consideration for how broadband is used (as a communications service). The legal system ultimately upheld the FCC's authority to make the classification, however. Which presumably should mean the FCC has the authority to reclassify too. But lawyers are involved, and the cable industry has a reasonable expectation that things could go either way once the subject returns to the Supreme Court.

-- Brian Santo
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